I travelled with my spouse on this trip - we are from Vancouver, British Columbia and had travelled in Florida for a week before embarking at Ft Lauderdale.
I booked the cruise through the cruise line and 3 weeks before departure noticed the price of our VD room had gone down. I phoned to see if we could get an on board credit but instead got upgraded to a VA guarantee - which then turned into an AFT VA cabin.
We returned our Alamo rental car and used our rental receipt for free transfer on the airport shuttle to the cruise port.
Embarkation at 11:30 was quick and easy - went directly to our room which was quite nice - the carpet was a little worn (but ship is in drydock for new carpets in a few days) but otherwise it was OK - until we went to use the toilet - made flushing sound but no flushing!!!!! After many tries and with the water approaching flood level we found our stateroom attendant who questioned what we had put in it (only toilet paper) and said More
he would have it fixed. The toilet problem would continue throughout the cruise - stopped working again the second day - went to front office who once again suggested it was my fault - was not fixed within an hour and had to return to front desk before it was fixed. The toilet was intermittent throughout the cruise, stopping flushing completely the last morning again - we had to go up to the Lido deck to use the toilet and some of the toilets there were not functioning either.
The air conditioning in the room was set to high all the time but the room never really cooled off - but we were more interested in the toilet working.
As usual the food on Holland America was excellent - not a single complaint there -
The staff was excellent but we certainly noticed that there are definitely fewer of them - especially noticable in the dining room - After dinner the 3rd night took well over 2 hours we went to the Lido for dinner - in all the cruises I have taken this is the first time I have gone to the buffet for dinner. We attended the dining room one more night with the same slow service. I do not think this is the servers' fault - they are running all the time - I think they just have too many tables to cover. It was very difficult to get a wine steward in the dining room. We went to Cannaletto one night which had a $10 per person cover charge, the meal was excellent and the service efficient. This dinner was my birthday night and my husband had arranged a cake for me - unfortunately no one told our server who brought the bill for the drinks, came and pulled out my chair and said have a nice evening.
The entertainment was excellent for the most part - especially 2 shows, the comedian Julie Barr and the Steel drum group that filled in when the show had to be cancelled due to technical difficulties. To hear the Phantom of the Opera and classical music played on steel drums was an amazing performance and the audience came to a standing ovation. We did the Tai Chi every time it was offered and really enjoyed that also.
In closing, we enjoyed the ports immensely on this cruise but will not be returning to this line anytime soon. I feel that the staff does their best to give the type of service that Holland America was famous for but there are just not enough of them to provide it. I do not think that it should have been inferred that toilet's not flushing was our fault when this ship has had issues with toilets for some time. Less
Zuiderdam Cruises to the Panama Canal & Central America
You can get a reasonable tour of the island from mini bus drivers just outside the port - There is a bar to the right when you come out of the port - maybe half a block down - up a flight of stairs - It is called Local Bar - free wifi and very reasonable cold beer. Nice staff.
This was a wonderful excursion to see the Panama Canal up close from a smaller boat and all the way to the Pacific.
The bus takes you back to the port of Colon where the ship is docked - there is quite a large shopping area there - many stores with the similar items but different prices so check around.
There was rioting in Colon a few weeks prior to our cruise and two ships skipped this stop so I was glad we were able to enjoy it
The Island has quite a bit of damage from Hurricane Sandy - the lush greenery is brown, I guess from sea water washing over it - the beach is not quite as big as it used to be. The water is still nice to swim in though
If you take this tour be sure to sit on the side of the boat that the driver is on because he seems to spot the most wildlife and the boat is turned to that side most of the time.
We were lucky enough to see sloths, howler monkeys and lots of birds. After the boat ride we had about 10 minutes to shop, eat fruit and drink beer. Then we went to see a banana plantation. Our guide was obviously very proud of his country and provided great information.
For shopping, there is quite a large shopping area right at the port - a market with free wifi, cheap beer and you can have a massage or manicure or pedicure. The shopping is more reasonable than we found after the boat ride.